Deputy Mayor Michael Cameron is not happy with the way the Municipality has been run over the past five months.
When the provincial government declared a state of emergency in March, due to COVID-19, regular council meetings and committees were suspended and the Municipal Emergency Control Group (MECG) took on the responsibility of guiding the Village through the pandemic.
The MECG is made up of the Mayor, CAO, Fire Chief, Manager of Operations, Treasurer, Community Management Program Co-ordinator (Deputy Clerk), Chief Building Official and the Emergency Information Officer (Receptionist). The MECG is responsible for implementing the Village’s Emergency Plan and making decisions both financially and operationally to respond to the crisis at hand. According to the bylaw, they must also maintain an operational log detailing the group’s decisions and activities.
Deputy Mayor Cameron feels that there hasn’t been enough transparency with the rest of council and the public about the MECG’s actions during the state of emergency. He says he would have liked to see the agenda and minutes made available to the rest of council and residents. “I myself as a councillor have no idea what they’ve done,” he says. “Taxpayers deserve to know how money has been spent and what the Mayor has been doing these past few months.”
While regular council meetings have now resumed, the Deputy Mayor believes this should have happened a long time ago, when the province changed their mandate to allow councils to meet. He also believes they aren’t moving quickly enough to reinstate the committees of council, which are integral for running the municipality and planning for the future. He says he recognizes that COVID-19 is serious; but that health organizations and various levels of government in Canada have realized the pandemic is not going to be a short-term issue, and that there is the need to find a way to move forward to minimize the impact both locally and federally. “The mayor’s lack off willingness to reinstate council and committees, when the province had changed that mandate, I think will end up costing us,” he says.
Deputy Mayor Cameron believes that the lack of transparency in government doesn’t stop with the MECG. He says he doesn’t understand why many of their meetings have to be in camera, when they are discussing matters that directly affect the residents of Merrickville- Wolford. “The public should be entitled to know how their councillors are represent- ing them at the table,” he says. “I’m disappointed with the whole process of how councils operate on behalf of residents.”
The Deputy Mayor says the process needs to be changed, and that council has the power to direct staff to move towards a more open and inclusive way of operating. “What I have learned in the last year and a half is that the words open and transparent are only words in a dictionary,” he says. “There doesn’t seem to be a concentrated or a due diligent effort to ensure that the knowledge, process and discussion is shared.”
Deputy Mayor Cameron’s hope is that they will discuss reinstating committees at their next council meeting on August 24. Even then he doesn’t think committees will be able to meet until the end of September or early October, which he believes is too long to wait. “In times of crisis the most important element any municipality can have is leadership,” he says. “If that leadership isn’t willing to share power with council and committees, it doesn’t allow for a very fluid interaction with the com- munity.”